By Erica Scalise
Following New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s push to end an agreement that prohibits passengers in the Bronx from boarding certain trains heading into Grand Central Terminal, Metro-North announced it is opening New Haven Line trains for travel between Fordham and Manhattan, effective April 14.
According to a Feb. 25 press release by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the change means railroad customers will be able to access an additional 96 weekday trains for travel between Fordham and Manhattan that previously had been off-limits, more than doubling existing service of 93 daily Harlem Line trains.
Metro North President Catherine Rinaldi said it was long past time for the elimination of what she referred to as a customer-unfriendly rule.
“The rule about boarding at Fordham had a long history, but that’s no reason for us to continue to uphold it,” said Rinaldi.
In a Feb. 26 press release by Stringer, the comptroller referred to the policy as an important step, but only a first step.
“The Harlem-125th, Melrose, Tremont, Botanical Garden, Williams Bridge, and Woodlawn stations continue to be bypassed by New Haven line trains—leaving Bronx and Manhattan residents with inadequate service,” said Stringer. “For real transit equity, we need to lower in-city Metro-North and LIRR fares to the $2.75 price of a MetroCard swipe and establish free subway and bus transfers so that New Yorkers aren’t effectively locked out of the 41 commuter rail stations within the five boroughs.”
The comptroller also called on the MTA to make improvements in order for passengers with mobility impairment to travel efficiently.
The MTA did not respond to inquiries about Stringer’s statement in time for publication.
Previously, customers at Fordham who sought travel to Grand Central or Harlem-125th Street, as well as customers at those two stations seeking to travel to Fordham, were directed to Harlem Line trains. Southbound New Haven Line trains stopped at Fordham to discharge passengers only, and northbound New Haven Line trains stopped at Fordham only to receive passengers.
Stringer referred to this policy as an “exclusionary practice” in a press release dated on Oct. 19.
Sandra Chavez, longtime resident of the Bronx and frequent Metro-North rider, referred to the previous policy as unfair but not surprising.
“I grew up here, and I honestly don’t think I’ve even questioned not being able to get on these trains, you know, because you’re so used to it,” said Chavez. “The conductors are always shooing people away, and it’s been like that forever so I never really questioned it. That doesn’t mean I don’t love this new idea though. Clearly it’s been a long time coming.”
According to the MTA, 67 New Haven Line trains will now be available on Saturdays for such travel, increasing the existing 83 Harlem Line trains. On
Sundays, the railroad is adding access to 65 New Haven Line trains to the existing 63 Harlem Line trains.
Chavez said the additional trains will help her commute, especially during wintertime.
“Sometimes I’m running late and I just miss my train by a couple of minutes and one of these other trains will go by but I can’t get on it,” said Chavez.
“I’m stuck standing there in the cold if the station is crowded. That’s just really inconvenient.”
During off-peak times, when waits can be longest, the changes mean service between Fordham and Manhattan will operate roughly four times an hour instead of twice an hour.
Liam Siegal, GSB ’21, frequents the Metro-North, relying on it for his commute from home to school and school to work. He said this will make his daily rides run at a smoother rate.
“I usually take the Metro-North three to five times per week, so when I originally found out this information, I couldn’t believe it,” said Siegal. “It’s been really annoying because the New Haven line has been going straight down to the city this entire time, not to mention the ticket prices aren’t any different either.”
In the east Bronx, the MTA is currently planning to build four New Haven Line stations in the East Bronx along the rail line to Penn Station.
As a result of the policy change, revenue from the sale of train tickets between Fordham and Manhattan, which previously had gone entirely to Metro-North, will now be split between Metro-North and the State of Connecticut, according to the MTA.
Chavez said she believes the decision was likely a business deal that revolved around money, rather than care for the Bronx community.
“It really all comes down to money in New York City,” said Chavez. “Growing up in the Bronx, you’re so used to seeing these types of disadvantages daily that it almost forces you to not even think about it anymore. Either way, I’m just glad the MTA made this change, even if it has been too long.”